When we met you were 13 and I was 9.
You a bright, red-headed curious thing into skateboarding, swimming, biking, fishing, adventure, skipping school.
Me, a shy, wallflower whose parents had just got divorced and now our parents had decided to plunge us together along with your brother, David and my sister Cindy on a weekend getaway at your dad Olen’s houseboat to get to know each other.
It was the summer of 1975 and we piled into the back of Olen’s yellow Toyota truck with our suitcases, towels, snacks, coolers, games, drinks; etc.
We had a blast at the lake that weekend, cooking out, driving motor boats, fishing, disco music blaring as we ran up and down the dock. And as the sun set that weekend and every weekend to follow where we would spend so much of our times there and the bait shop, memories were made to the tune of John Denver music which Olen and my mom loved and we all grew to love it, too.
I remember the first weekend at Lake Lanier where the houseboat was docked I jumped in the water, confidently with my horsey float as you energetically told me I wouldn’t go underwater. I did, of course, and came up crying. You’d deny telling me that and you’d never get in trouble.
You were always teasing me with that song “Why Can’t We Be Friends” because you were always aggravating me.
On the way home that weekend, Olen decided to go through the drive-thru at Dairy Queen and get us all banana splits. As we tried to maneuver eating these treasures in the back of the truck with the wind whipping, towels flying everywhere, my sister Cindy opened up her suitcase to retrieve something to clean up the mess her banana split made. You suggested grabbing her Cheerleading Little League bloomers with the smiley face on them. As she held them up to shake them out after cleaning up the mess, they went flying down the highway.
All this chaos was going on as we tried to clean up all this mess with towels, suitcases flying open as I tried to knock on the passenger’s side of the door but my mom and Olen had that country music blaring so loud they couldn’t hear us.
When we finally got home Olen surveyed the damage and said to my sister Cindy, “Well, honey why didn’t you knock on the window, I would’ve stopped!”
We had all kinds of adventures till we didn’t any more.
Alcohol had taken hold of our parents and it wasn’t letting go.
One night when you were 16 and I was laying in bed you were beaten for hours by Olen for bringing home all “Fs” on your report card. The beating seemed to go on forever and I remember laying there and crying.
I remember the next day you could hardly move but you were sent to school anyway with bruises and a black eye and busted lip. In those days in Georgia teachers didn’t question anything.
Our relationship was always one of competition. On my 12th birthday you told me you were going to tell Mom I did something that you did so I’d get a whipping on my birthday – and it worked.
But then you built a go-kart another time and let me ride it around the neighborhood with you.
When you met my husband you liked him because he liked Stevie Ray Vaughn and you would always call me your “thither” for sister.”
Then you started having health problems of your own and were in and out of the hospital. You worked so much no one ever saw you.
Until last summer the health problems took their toll and you could no longer fight them. Your roommate took you to the ER against your will because you were keeled over in pain. You would wind up being there four months. You hadn’t talked to Olen who was dying for a very long time but you did get to talk to him once on the phone.
You underwent three or four surgeries and just when they thought you were going to be okay, your stomach opened back up and you had to be placed back on the ventilator. You then had to be moved back to ICU and your body started shutting down.
You died a week before Thanksgiving last year.
We were never close and yet the longer you’re gone, the more things I remember. Like you making me hot toddies, and other things like that. Or the fact that at one point you and your brother dated the same girl – at different times. Or that time you carried the neighbor’s kid over our fence because he wouldn’t obey. My mom was like a second mom to you and from the minute you went in the hospital you told her that as far as you were concerned she was your mom.
In 1975 you and your brother made this old 8-track tape of you playing the unruly student and your brother playing the hard-nose principal. It was hilarious. Unfortunately it got erased. Since you died, I thought how great it’d be to have it back and be able to listen to it.
You joined the angels at 58.